Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Response to The Birth of a New Nation

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Birth of a New Nation)

Okay, it’s a little complicated. We need to parse it a bit:
TRUMP (answering reporters’ questions): Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at [indiscernible] – excuse me – what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

What about this? What about the fact that they came charging – they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.

As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute, I'm not finished. I'm not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day.

I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you had, you had a group on one side that was bad. And you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group – you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent. 
(I could just listen to this nitwit talk all day long!)

Still, he makes a good point!

On the one hand, you had a group that drove a car into a crowd of protestors, injuring about twenty and killing one of them; on the other hand, you had another group — equally bad! — that came in charging without a permit!

Both bad? I don’t know, you be the judge!

But levity aside, it should be noted that Trump somehow got his “alt-left” mixed up with his “Antifa”:
Antifa is a far-left, anarchist political movement of autonomous, self-described anti-fascist groups in the United States. The term is loosely used with anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, as well as Anarchism and anti-capitalism. 
According to The Economist, the "word Antifa has its roots in Anti-Fascist Action, a name taken up by European political movements in the 1930s" and which was revived in the 1990s, particularly in Germany. 
Peter Beinart writes that "In the late ’80s, left-wing punk fans in the United States began following suit, though they initially called their groups Anti-Racist Action, on the theory that Americans would be more familiar with fighting racism than fascism.” 
They are known for militant protest tactics, including property damage and, sometimes, physical violence.
Note that last part, about “physical violence”.

It’s been said that the Antifa is like any typical leftist anti-rightwing group, but without the snowflakes, who argue that the anti-violence approach of the past has failed. So no, Trump was not imagining it when he saw the counter-protestors on Saturday sometime being the aggressors.

And yes, in all the hoo-hah about the violence in Charlottesville for the past several days, there’s been very little mention of “Antifa”. I’m guessing that’s because it would step on all the agreement we see from both sides, that you shouldn’t be shy about blaming the white-national racists for starting the whole thing.

Which is true, but what is also true is that you shouldn’t be shy about telling the whole truth about all this, that being that,

(1) while the violent tactics can justifiably be blamed on both sides,

(2) only one side are the actual bad guys.

In other words, when it comes to assessing  the relative despisability of the “causes” — that is, "racist white superiority" vs “not” — nobody, of either party, even Republican, should feel embarrassed or ashamed to come out in favor of Enlightened Western Civilization.

Both causes are opinions, and as such are equally protected by the Constitution, but they aren’t really equal in the sense of being what America wants to be. We Americans may disagree with how to get there, but once we arrive, we all want to be the good guys.

Got it?

So is the Trump administration as naive about Antifa as it seems? Maybe not:
In what is shaping up to be a contentious battle over privacy rights and free speech, the Department of Justice has formally requested that web hosting firm ‘DreamHost’ turn over 1.3 million IP addresses and other information to ‘unmask‘ visitors to the anti-Trump Antifa website ‘,’ as part of the investigation into crimes committed on and around January 20 by protesters. DreamHost has challenged the request, claiming the scope of data requested violates the first and fourth amendments because it is too broad. was registered in October of 2016 by the ‘DC Anti-fascist Coalition,’ and promoted along with the hashtag #DisruptJ20, as a central resource for anti-Trump protesters to coordinate various plots over social media intended disrupt the presidential inauguration on and around January 20. 
The website connected users through mailing lists and planned meet-ups, and provided a calendar of anarchistic events as well as resources to help people prepare for the mayhem. The site also provides a ‘legal guide’ for those arrested.
The article goes on about those violent activities at the swearing-in in Washington, that "after inauguration related chaos, organized and coordinated in large part through the DisruptJ20 website, 230 ‘black-bloc‘ protesters were arrested and subsequently indicted on felony rioting charges after the “anti-fascists” rioted in the streets – smashing storefronts, setting a limousine on fire, and injuring six police officers.”

So yeah, “Antifa” violence is really a thing.

Still, speaking of not being able to tell the difference, there was also this:
TRUMP: George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down – excuse me. Are we going to take down, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him? Okay, good. Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue?
Someone needs to tell Donald that one not only needs to know his American history, one has to understand it. But he also needs to know his current affairs:

Governments all over the South are not taking down statues of people because they were slave-owners, but because they were Confederates!

To help you understand the difference, General George Washington fought for the United States of America, while General Robert E. Lee fought against it!

And not only did Lee fight against America, he fought in defense of a nation slapped together by states who seceded almost exclusively to preserve the “rights” of their citizens to own human beings, a practice that even white Southerners of the time were concluding was evil and would not be surviving for long. 

In fact, the existence in town squares across the South of the symbols of an American enemy nation has, to me, always been a bit weird — just part of the extraordinarily generous efforts that we, the victors, took to welcome them home, I guess.

But once the nation realized the pain that the Confederate legacy caused to the true victims of the Civil War — the slaves, and the descendants of slaves — it came to its senses and realized that, it was one thing to remember your ugly heritage, but it was another to celebrate it in the public square. It was time for the celebrations to end.

I heard Don Lemon, a black CNN anchor, ask the other day, can you imagine being Jewish, living in post-war Germany as a kid, going to Joseph Goebbels Middle School, and after you graduate from there, attending Adolf Hitler High? That’s what it was like for him, he said, growing up in the South.

Does Donald Trump realize this? Probably not, but he’s got a very good excuse: He was born with the brain of a lizard! He can’t help being unlearnable!

I’m starting to sound like a broken record in an echo chamber. I’m getting out of here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Response to The Job at Hand

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Job at Hand)

In a classic case of “Man Bites Dog”, we now see the elephants sweeping up after the man with the shovel, who can’t seem to figure out what to do with all the poopy he keeps leaving behind himself.

Here’s how E.J. Dionne puts it:
Advisers to the president tried to clean up after this moral failure, putting out a statement Sunday morning – attributed to no one – declaring that “of course” his condemnation of violence “includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.” 
But if that “of course” is sincere, why didn’t Trump say these things in the first place? And why hang on to the president’s inexcusable moral equivalence by adding that phrase “and all extremist groups”?
Not to mention the fact that Trump apparently couldn’t bring himself to tell us this himself, in his own words, maybe because he’s reluctant to ever admit he did something that needs clarification — for fear of messaging “weakness” — but probably also because he wants deniability to all his alt-supporters.

I also can’t help but wonder if the flaming rebukes Trump has received from his fellow Republicans, Lyin’ Ted Cruz and Little Marco Rubio, concerning his response, might be the result of both ex-candidates feeling that there might be no real price to pay for payback — which, in itself, is a sign that his scorched-earth, tough-guy, bullying approach during the primaries may not have been such a good idea after all, especially when it comes to trying to build the coalition he would later need to lean on, to get things done during his presidency.

Oh, well, at least America can chalk that up to just another "rooky mistake". Next time, we'll know not to elect an amateur.

By the way, this incident should also serve as a reminder of what Hillary Clinton was talking about when she alluded to much of Trump’s support coming from a “basket of deplorables”:
”You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? (Laughter/applause)

The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket ... that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change.

It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.
Back then, many Trump supporters chose to misinterpret that “deplorables” comment as referring to all Trump voters, but it didn’t; she was talking about all the haters, the racists, the white-supremacists, the extremist vermin who now felt liberated enough by Trump’s candidacy to come out of hiding from the American fringes, to declare for Trump. He has pretended to not see them standing there behind him, but we know he knows they’re there because of the obvious care he takes not to say anything to offend them.

Something else new in all of this is that, never do I remember in the past our ever having to demand the same level of specificity from our president in statements of lamentation they've had to make following a tragedy. I think the closest we’ve come is in the complaints from many on the right after Barrack Obama observed that he imagined Trevon Martin as being the son he never had, during his comments after that Zimmerman guy murdered him.

But other than that — or at least as I remember it — we’ve never expected our president to take sides in a violent clash between political demonstrators.

Why is that?

Maybe because, back then, we could also assume that we all knew which side was the good guys and which the bad. It doesn’t speak well for the Donald Trump era, much less for the man himself, that even those on the right are demanding he clarify where he himself stands on the deplorables spectrum.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Response to Discounting Experience

(See: Just Above Sunset: Discounting Experience)

Here’s what Kevin Drum thinks:
Liberals like to think that maybe more diplomacy will stop North Korea’s nuclear program. It won’t. Conservatives like to think that tougher sanctions, or possibly military force, will stop their nuclear program. They won’t. Donald Trump likes to pretend that China can stop their nuclear program. They either can’t or won’t. Like it or not, this is where we are.

There are only two options left. Either we accept a nuclear-armed North Korea or we launch a nuclear strike to take out their capabilities. Since a nuclear strike is insane for too many reasons to list – including the fact that it might not even work – this means we really have no options at all. We can, if we want, maintain a hostile attitude toward North Korea as a signal to others about the price of developing nukes, but we basically have to accept the reality that North Korea is a nuclear state.
But wait! One of those two options — that is, accepting a nuclear North Korea — might be an actual option, but only if Kim’s plan weren’t to go ahead and use his nukes on us — but it seems that is his plan. And this leaves us with only one option, which would be to launch a nuclear strike to take out their capabilities.

And that’s especially true after hearing today that Kim’s thinking about taking out Guam with one of his maybe 60 newly-released mini-warheads, each small enough to fit inside a missile. I suppose it’s a good sign that he’s threatening one of our territories first, which he probably wouldn’t do if he were serious about hitting our mainland, since he must know that destroying Guam would likely be immediately followed by us destroying North Korea.

Which means he’s probably bluffing — although you willing to chance that?

But let’s back up a bit. Since we already know that the “bomb North Korea” option is extremely problematical, maybe we should leave that as the absolute last alternative. As stupid as this may sound, I happen to believe some sort of diplomacy is more likely our only hope, assuming there is any hope at all of avoiding massive death and destruction.

And if we’re going to negotiate, maybe we should try to figure out what all these things the U.S. is doing that Kim finds “threatening” — other, that is, than us just telling him to stop threatening us or we’ll rain fire on him like nobody’s ever seen?

The most I could find is he’s still pissed off about things we did to them back in the early 1950s, during the Korean War. That story comes from WaPo’s Anna Fifield, back in May: 
The Kim family has kept a tight grip on North Korea for some seven decades by perpetuating the idea that the Americans are out to get them. From the earliest age, North Korean children are taught “cunning American wolves” — illustrated by fair-haired, pale-skinned men with huge noses — want to kill them. 
Kindergartens and child-care centers are decorated with animals holding grenades and machine guns. Cartoons show plucky squirrel soldiers (North Koreans) triumphing over the cunning wolves (Americans). 
“North Koreans live in a war mentality, and this anti-American propaganda is war-time propaganda,” said Tatiana Gabroussenko, an expert in North Korean propaganda who teaches at Korea University in Seoul. 
The thing is: there is some element of truth to the North Korean version of events. It’s only a kernel, and it is grossly exaggerated, but North Koreans remember very well what most Americans have forgotten (or never knew): that the Korean War was a brutal one. 
“Korea is called the forgotten war, and part of what has been forgotten is the utter ruin and devastation that we rained down on the North Korean people,” said John Delury, a professor in the international relations department at Yonsei University in Seoul. “But this has been ingrained into the North Korean psyche.”
Remember Dean Rusk, Secretary of State under JFK and LBJ? He figures in this story:
First: a little history.

The Korean Peninsula, previously occupied by Japan, was divided at the end of World War II. Dean Rusk — an Army colonel at the time, who went on to become secretary of state — got a map and basically drew a line across at the 38th parallel. To the Americans’ surprise, the Soviet Union agreed to the line, and the communist-backed North and the American-backed South were established in 1948 as a “temporary measure.”

On June 25, 1950, Kim Il Sung, installed by the Soviets to lead North Korea, decided to try to reunify the peninsula by force, invading the South. (Although in the North Korean version of events, the South and their imperialist patrons started it.)

The push south was surprisingly successful until Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed his troops on the mudflats at Incheon, sending the northern troops back. Then the Chinese got involved, managing to push them back to roughly where they started, on the 38th parallel.

All this happened within the first six months or so. For the next two-and-a-half years, neither side was able to make any headway. The war was drawn to a close in 1953, after exacting a bloody toll.

“The number of Korean dead, injured or missing by war’s end approached three million, 10 percent of the overall population,” Charles K. Armstrong, a professor of Korean history at Columbia University, wrote in an essay. “The majority of those killed were in the North, which had half of the population of the South.”

But the war ended with an armistice, not with a peace treaty. That means that, to this day, North and South Korea remain in a technical state of war.
But while it lasted, we were brutal. We dropped more bombs in Korea than we did in all the Pacific in WWII:
The United States dropped 635,000 tons of bombs in Korea, not counting the 32,557 tons of napalm, Bruce Cumings, a University of Chicago professor who’s written several books on North Korea, wrote in “The Korean War: A History.” This compared with 503,000 tons in the entire Pacific theater in World War II. 
“If we keep on tearing the place apart, we can make it a most unpopular affair for the North Koreans,” Defense Secretary Robert Lovett said after the napalm and aerial bombing campaigns of 1950 and 1951, according to Cumings. “We ought to go right ahead,” Lovett said. 
Rusk said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops, former Post correspondent Blaine Harden wrote on these pages in 2015. 
Air Force commanders complained that they’d run out of targets. 
“The physical destruction and loss of life on both sides was almost beyond comprehension, but the North suffered the greater damage, due to American saturation bombing and the scorched-earth policy of the retreating U.N. forces,” Armstrong of Columbia wrote.
And the Kim regimes haven’t let their people forget:
The Kim regime keeps its people afraid by constantly blaming the United States for its situation, especially sanctions for its economic plight. But this also helps it unify the populace against a supposed external threat. ... 
“When a new and untested American president starts dangling out the prospect of a surprise missile attack as the solution to the North Korean problem, it plays directly into their worst narrative that the regime tells its people,” Delury said.
The regime punctuates their war narrative with many museums throughout the country designed to remind their people of the atrocities, such as the "Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities", south of Pyongyang, commemorating a massacre there in which 35,000 women, children and old people were said to have died in 1950, at the hands of American troops, according to the North, but doubts about the culprits remain
US troops did indeed commit several massacres of Korean civilians during the war, such as at Nogun-ri in South Korea on July 26, 1950, when American soldiers shot South Koreans fleeing the war zone, an event for which then-President Bill Clinton expressed his “regrets” in 2001. However, several scholars have put US responsibility for the Sincheon massacre in doubt, as did famous South Korean novelist Hwang Sok-Yong, who traveled to North Korea in 1989. 
In his book “Sonnim” (The Guest), based on eyewitness reports of the Sincheon atrocities, Hwang affirms that Korean Christians fleeing toward South Korea and Korean communists perpetrated the massacre, not US soldiers. Hwang says he did not see any evidence that American troops were involved.
Still, they continue to talk about this sort of thing in Korea. While we see that war as being over long ago — even if technically it isn’t — apparently, for some reason, the North Koreans don’t.

So as farfetched as it sounds, getting Kim to see the Korean War the way the rest of the world does, might help. Maybe China and Russia could host a meeting in Geneva or somewhere, giving Kim a chance to meet representatives of other countries face-to-face, showing him what’s really going on out here, which might even lead to a peace treaty that actually ends the Korean War, instead of it continuing as an anomaly in history as just a cease-fire.

Maybe we could get Bill Clinton involved, and somehow return us all to the so-called “Agreed Framework”, in which they stop testing nuclear weapons, while we supply them with the sorts of things that keep their energy needs satisfied, as well as their needs for food for the populace, at the same time as we offer help in modernizing their economy and reintegrating them into the rest of the world.

The hardest part, of course, will be sneaking all this past Donald Trump. Hmm.

Okay, well, see you all after the apocalypse.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Response to The Day Came

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Day Came)

“What the prosecutors should be looking at are Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails,” Trump said, to uproarious applause. “And they should be looking at the paid Russian speeches. And the owned Russian companies. Or look at the uranium that she sold that is now in the hands of very angry Russians.”

That, of course, came from his rally in West Virginia last night, before a crowd of cheering admirers primed to swallow whatever poop he fed them as if it were ambrosia from heaven. The truth about these claims, which Trump must have heard before since he regurgitates all this stuff on a regular basis, did not likely have any advocates in attendance.

Still, if nobody ever revisits it, people will start to believe that the truth is not true, since they never hear anybody say it:

* Clinton’s deleted emails: Trump’s line on the maybe 33,000 private emails that Hillary “deleted” is that she destroyed them under subpoena, which is not true. After she had left office, Congress asked — not subpoenaed — the State Department for copies of any old emails from ex-Secretaries of State having to do with official business, and State onpassed the request to her.

At the same time that she turned over the emails to State in early December of 2014, she ordered that all her old private exchanges having nothing even close to a connection with government business be deleted. Maybe she should have kept them, just so she could later prove they had nothing to do with her job, but there didn’t seem to be a reason to at the time.

In early March of the following year, two days after the New York Times reported that Hillary had used a personal email account when Secretary of State, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued a subpoena for all emails having to do with Libya. Later that month, an employee of Platte River Networks, the subcontractor who had been charged with dispatching the emails, had what he termed an “oh, shit! moment” when he realized he hadn’t gotten around to the deletions, so he erased the archive at that point, at about the same time that Clinton’s lawyers sent a letter to the committee to inform them that the pertinent Libya emails had all been included in the December turnover.

Did Clinton issue a deletion order after the subpoena had arrived, as Trump claimed? According to Politifact, the FBI looked into that, and
the FBI learned no one on Clinton’s staff specifically asked the employee to delete the emails following the New York Times story and subpoena. Rather, the employee made that decision on his own.
In other words, it’s been checked out already by the FBI, and they decided that there’s nothing to it. Case closed.

* Uranium Hillary sold to the Russians: The uranium story is a convoluted one, but the bottom line is that there wasn’t any. Zip!

This fable originated in the book Clinton Cash, by Breitbart’s Peter Schweizer. Here’s how Snopes summarizes the issue:
The mining company, Uranium One, was originally based in South Africa, but merged in 2007 with Canada-based UrAsia Energy. Shareholders there retained a controlling interest until 2010, when Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, completed purchase of a 51% stake. Hillary Clinton played a part in the transaction because it involved the transfer of ownership of a material deemed important to national security — uranium, amounting to one-fifth of U.S. reserves — thus requiring the approval of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), on which the U.S. Secretary of State sits.
Sounds like trouble for Hillary? Maybe not so much:
Among the ways these accusations stray from the facts is in attributing a power of veto or approval to Secretary Clinton that she simply did not have. Clinton was one of nine cabinet members and department heads that sit on the CFIUS, and the secretary of the treasury is its chairperson. CFIUS members are collectively charged with evaluating the transaction for potential national security issues, then turning their findings over to the president. By law, the committee can’t veto a transaction; only the president can. According to The New York Times, Clinton may not have even directly participated in the Uranium One decision. Then-Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez, whose job it was to represent the State Dept. on CFIUS, said Clinton herself “never intervened” in committee matters.
And as for Trump’s, "look at the uranium that she sold that is now in the hands of very angry Russians”?
Russia doesn’t have the licenses to export uranium outside the United States, pointed out, "so it’s somewhat disingenuous to say this uranium is now Russia’s, to do with what it pleases." The Kremlin was likely more interested in Uranium One’s assets in Kazakhstan, the world’s largest producer.
The fact that Trump keeps making this claim is further proof (as if anybody needs further proof) that Trump is either (1) too stupid to be president of the United States, or (2) too much of a jerk to be president, or (3) possibly both.

* As for Trump’s suggestion that prosecutors "should be looking at the paid Russian speeches" and "the owned Russian companies”, it’s hard to know what the hell he’s talking about.

I wasn’t able to find out if Hillary ever got a paying gig to speak in Russia, although her husband got paid $500,000 to speak there in 2010. Then again, according to Politifact, Bill Clinton has made a lot of speeches in a lot of places, sometimes getting paid even more:
Bill Clinton regularly delivers speeches for fees of $500,000 or higher — such as a $750,000 speech in Hong Kong in 2011, paid for by a Swedish communications company, and a $600,000 speech in the Netherlands, also in 2011, paid for by a Dutch finance corporation.
But none of that has ever been linked with charges that either Bill or Hillary may have helped Russia intrude in our elections, or that they have ever taken any meeting with Russian spies offering quid-pro-quos for helping to repeal U.S. sanctions against Russia.

Nor, by the way, have I any idea what Trump means by “the owned Russian companies”, but sometimes, as evidenced by those phone conversations with the leaders of Australia and Mexico, he just blurts out things that have nothing to do with anything.

Does he actually believe the stuff he says, or is he just playing the village idiot for effect? I don’t know.

But maybe it’s Dada?
Developed in reaction to World War I, the Dada movement consisted of artists who rejected the logic, reason, and aestheticism of modern capitalist society, instead expressing nonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeois protest in their works. …

Many Dadaists believed that the 'reason' and 'logic' of bourgeois capitalist society had led people into war. They expressed their rejection of that ideology in artistic expression that appeared to reject logic and embrace chaos and irrationality.
Sometimes I wonder if Donald Trump’s whole life might someday be revealed to be one long Dada-esque “happening”, some early 21st Century example of impermanent “performance art”, and wondered if future generations might celebrate this man as America’s one and only original, home-grown, true creative genius.